Game Chef , an open contest for game design based on the concept of competitive cooking shows, opened on Friday and goes until June 21st. This year’s theme is “A Different Audience” and the ingredients are “Abandon, Dragonfly, Stillness, and Dream.” Anyone can submit a game to Game Chef as long as it incorporates the theme and ingredients, but the organizers encourage creative and even loose interpretations. Previous winners and runners-up include: a story game where you read love letters to each other, a round robin collaborative story about monsters and dreams, and a tabletop game incorporating cards about stopping a literate monster.

Over in the Game Chef G+ Community, there is a very active conversation between veteran game designers, newbies, and everyone in between. People are proposing LARPs, phone games, tabletop games, and board games, all sprung from the same ingredients and theme. They’re posting their rough drafts and asking for feedback, encouraging their children to make their own designs, and discussing what exactly a different audience might be.

[pullquote]The biggest reason to make a game for Game Chef is because it’s fun![/pullquote] The biggest reason to make a game for Game Chef is because it’s fun! You can decide how serious you want to be about it, how polished you want your submission to be, and how much time you want to invest in creating it. And if you’re an aspiring game designer, this is game design with a safety net. Every game is peer reviewed, so you are guaranteed feedback on your game, and some of those reviewers are published game designers. People playing your game is such an exciting feeling! The reviewers will tell you what you did well and what needs to be tweaked, and beyond that, there’s the whole community to talk to and geek out with.

I talked to Kristin Firth about her experience with Game Chef, and she mentioned both the feedback she got and the fact that she went back and worked on the game later. This is really important, as too often newbie game designers will end up avoiding finishing, or will give up trying, to make something that they feel isn’t perfect. Game Chef is great for powering through that fear, a way to take those game design wheels out for a spin without a lot of commitment. The short time frame makes sure you won’t dawdle over your design for years, and there’s no money involved. So, what are you waiting for?